Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve Silver

Book Review: Rush (The Game #1) by Eve SilverRush by Eve Silver
Series: The Game #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on June 11, 2013
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 361
Format: Paperback
Source: Author
Goodreads
3 Stars
So what’s the game now? This, or the life I used to know?

When Miki Jones is pulled from her life, pulled through time and space into some kind of game—her carefully controlled life spirals into chaos. In the game, she and a team of other teens are sent on missions to eliminate the Drau, terrifying and beautiful alien creatures. There are no practice runs, no training, and no way out. Miki has only the guidance of secretive but maddeningly attractive team leader Jackson Tate, who says the game isn’t really a game, that what Miki and her new teammates do now determines their survival, and the survival of every other person on this planet. She laughs. He doesn’t. And then the game takes a deadly and terrifying turn.

Book Review:

The idea behind RUSH is one I really like: teenagers pulled into a game to fight aliens. The book had me at “game” and “aliens.” I enjoyed that part of RUSH, and looked forward to every time Miki was pulled so I could learn more about the game and the aliens.

But RUSH also has two big reeding peeves of mine: a jerkish love interest and withholding information from the main character. So that factored into my enjoyment of the book. I didn’t love RUSH, I didn’t hate RUSH. It was okay. But that’s not really a bad thing, since RUSH did pique my interest enough for me to pick up book two, PUSH.

When Miki tries to save a deaf girl from being hit by a car, she’s the one that’s hit. Instead of dying, she wakes up in the game. Within minutes, she’s given a weapon and told not to let her life monitor turn red. Then she and the others are off to fight aliens. Not the green kind, but nasty ones who eat brains like chocolate and want to destroy Earth. The game is deadly, but it’s the first time Miki’s felt alive since her mother’s death.

Desperate for answers, Miki turns to her team’s leader, Jackson. But Jackson insists it’s every man for himself, and there is no team. He also has an incredibly infuriating habit of not answering Miki’s questions. I really, really dislike this tactic, especially when I don’t know anything and I spend my time being confused. For the majority of the book, Miki was confused too, which led to a lot of inner monologuing and questioning, which bogged down the action.

Then we get to the other problem I had with RUSH. Despite Jackson’s every man for himself attitude, he likes Miki for some reason. He even saves her life. And even though Jackson tries to push her away, even telling her he’s not a good guy and doesn’t have good intentions, Miki falls for him. She could be a minute from fighting, but she’ll notice some appealing feature of Jackson’s. I guess the author was trying to go for a love-hate relationship, but Jackson just came off as a jerk and I didn’t buy Miki’s interest in him. Now I’m quite critical of relationships, especially in YA, so you might vary.

The time in the game? Fantastic. My favorite parts of RUSH for sure. The author wrote some great action scenes, and had some really cool/creepy ideas on aliens. I like the idea of alien fighting being framed in a game, a way to get the players motivated and moving.

Socialize with the author:

Eve Silver:
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

Book Review: The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy EwingThe Jewel by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #1
Published by HarperTeen on September 2, 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 358
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine, Edelweiss
Goodreads
4 Stars
The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring.

Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life.

Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence... and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for.

Book Review:

THE JEWEL is a difficult book for me to rate. I loved parts of it and other parts made me want to tear my hair out. I wavered between 3 and 4 stars, but went with 4 in the end because I was entertained by the story.

To start off, THE JEWEL has a really cool idea. Poor girls used as surrogates for the ultra wealthy? Bought and sold like property, treated like pets, and expected to make designer babies? Usually I don’t like stories that have even a whiff of pregnancy, but I dove head first into this one and enjoyed most of the ride.

THE JEWEL is a fast read. I kept flipping the pages because I wanted to know what would happen next to Violet. I normally read quickly, but I was consumed by this book. I couldn’t get enough of the opulent world of the Jewel, of the powerful and moralless women who rule it. The author painted a vivid picture of life within the Jewel, of the money thrown around carelessly while the poor starve and live in mud-brick houses.

There were some holes in the worldbuilding: we never find out what led to the creation of the Lone City. The city is arranged in five circles, each with an industry — as a farmer, I can’t quite believe in all the food being grown in one specific circle, especially land right next to a circle full of factories. I’m also not sure why only the girls of the Marsh (the poorest circle) are able to access the Auguries, although I imagine that will be explained in future books.

THE JEWEL does start a little slowly, with Violet saying goodbye to her old life, but once she’s bought at auction, the book takes off. I was fascinated by the Duchess of the Lake, Violet’s owner. She’s ruthless, and I liked how she treated Violet. (Yeah, I know that makes me twisted.)

But then we come to the part of THE JEWEL that frustrated me. The insta-love. Violet falls superfast for the companion of the Duchess’s niece. He falls superfast for her. Insta-love is a big peeve of mine, and while Violet and Ash do have music to bond over, I wish they wouldn’t have progressed to the “I love yous” so quickly. I wanted to roll my eyes whenever they were together. Violet/Ash drew me out of the spell of the book because I couldn’t believe in their relationship.

Overall, though, THE JEWEL was a blast to read, and I’m eager for the next book in the series.

Socialize with the author:

Amy Ewing:
Website
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Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James Luceno

Book Review: Star Wars: Tarkin by James LucenoTarkin by James Luceno
Series: Star Wars
Published by Del Rey on November 4, 2014
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
2 Stars
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....

Bestselling Star Wars veteran James Luceno gives Grand Moff Tarkin the Star Wars: Darth Plagueis treatment, bringing a legendary character from A New Hope to full, fascinating life.

He’s the scion of an honorable and revered family. A dedicated soldier and distinguished legislator. Loyal proponent of the Republic and trusted ally of the Jedi Order. Groomed by the ruthless politician and Sith Lord who would be Emperor, Governor Wilhuff Tarkin rises through the Imperial ranks, enforcing his authority ever more mercilessly ... and zealously pursuing his destiny as the architect of absolute dominion.

Rule through the fear of force rather than force itself, he advises his Emperor. Under Tarkin’s guidance, an ultimate weapon of unparalleled destruction moves ever closer to becoming a terrifying reality. When the so-called Death Star is completed, Tarkin is confident that the galaxy’s lingering pockets of Separatist rebellion will be brought to heel—by intimidation ... or annihilation.

Until then, however, insurgency remains a genuine threat. Escalating guerrilla attacks by resistance forces and newfound evidence of a growing Separatist conspiracy are an immediate danger the Empire must meet with swift and brutal action. And to bring down a band of elusive freedom fighters, the Emperor turns to his most formidable agents: Darth Vader, the fearsome new Sith enforcer as remorseless as he is mysterious; and Tarkin—whose tactical cunning and cold-blooded efficiency will pave the way for the Empire’s supremacy ... and its enemies’ extinction.

Book Review:

I’ve long been a reader of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. In fact, most of my favorite characters and storylines come from the books, not the movies. But Tarkin is one that caught my interest in the movie, and I’ve been waiting a long time for his story.

But TARKIN just wasn’t the book I hoped it would be.

First I should say that James Luceno’s writing style doesn’t always work for me, and this is one of those books where it really didn’t work. I slogged through this book, constantly distracted by descriptions of every single person encountered, down to their hair color, facial features, and attire. Once you take away all the descriptions and random tangents, there’s not a lot of story left. And the story that is there … well, I can’t imagine Tarkin being outfoxed in the way he was, and by a group that didn’t have a strong motive. I’m also not sure I buy his “training” on Eriadu.

TARKIN contains passages from characters other than Tarkin, including Emperor Palpatine and the ship thieves, but … everyone sounds the same when they open their mouths. I just can’t see Darth Vader speaking like this: “Then there was some purpose to turning a blind eye to illegality, and to fostering dishonesty of a particular sort. But times have changed, and it is incumbent on you to change with them (Chapter 7).”

I was hoping for a book about Tarkin, but though TARKIN contains some flashbacks to his youth, the book is mostly about him and Darth Vader taking a trip around the galaxy to find Tarkin’s ship. There are a few examples of Tarkin’s ruthlessness, which I did like, but otherwise … I didn’t believe in Luceno’s version of him. It just didn’t work for me. Hunting animals and living primally doesn’t turn one into a military strategist — why not show more of Tarkin’s time at the academy? Why not show some important events, instead of telling me about them? That’s another big gripe I have with the author’s writing: he tells almost everything, instead of showing me what’s going on. And I’m not going into the tons of classes of ships I’d never heard of before, and dialogue like the line I quoted from Darth Vader.

Ultimately, TARKIN was a disappointing story about such an iconic character. When I finished the book, I thought, “That’s it? Really?” The main plot was, well, weak, and there were unresolved side plots, including the Emperor feeling dark currents in the Force? The ending of the book felt rushed. Instead of spending so much time detailing everything, maybe more attention should have been giving to developing sub plots and connecting everything together.

I think from now on I’ll stay away from Star Wars books written by Luceno, and possibly the new reboot of the EU, since I haven’t liked what’s come out of it so far.

– leeanna

Blog Tour: The Last Changeling by Chelsea Pitcher

the last changeling blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for THE LAST CHANGELING by Chelsea Pitcher. The tour is hosted by Itching For Books and you can visit all the stops here.

the last changeling by chelsea pitcherInfo:
Title: The Last Changeling
Author: Chelsea Pitcher
Release Date: November 8, 2014
Publisher: Flux
Series: Faerie Revolutions #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Page Count: 360

Summary:

A Kingdom at War . . .

Elora, the young princess of the Dark Faeries, plans to overthrow her tyrannical mother, the Dark Queen, and bring equality to faeriekind. All she has to do is convince her mother’s loathed enemy, the Bright Queen, to join her cause. But the Bright Queen demands an offering first: a human boy who is a “young leader of men.”

A Dark Princess In Disguise . . .

To steal a mortal, Elora must become a mortal—at least, by all appearances. And infiltrating a high school is surprisingly easy. When Elora meets Taylor, the seventeen-year-old who’s plotting to overthrow a ruthless bully, she thinks she’s found her offering . . . until she starts to fall in love.

Excerpt:

ELORA:

I was seventeen when death crossed my path. Before that, I’d only dreamt of twisted limbs and blood as bright as poppies. But late one night, death offered me an opportunity. She whispered dirty secrets in my ear and pulled back my eyelids with curling hands.

There,” she said, and pointed.

I did not recognize her voice then. I did not know who was leading me into the darkness.

I followed.

Down below, a girl traveled the highway alone. She carried a hefty knapsack—the staple of the runaway. Her hair was red like mine and we might’ve been sisters, if not for the obvious difference.

She was a mortal.


I picked the excerpt from the very first page, because I think it sets the tone for the rest of the book rather well.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the author:

author chelsea pitcherChelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.
Website
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– leeanna

Book Review: A Day of Fire

Book Review: A Day of FireA Day of Fire by Ben Kane, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Sophie Perinot, Stephanie Dray, Vicky Alvear Shecter
Published by Knight Media on November 4, 2014
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 315
Format: eARC
Source: Blog Tour
Goodreads
5 Stars
Pompeii was a lively resort flourishing in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius at the height of the Roman Empire. When Vesuvius erupted in an explosion of flame and ash, the entire town would be destroyed. Some of its citizens died in the chaos, some escaped the mountain’s wrath . . . and these are their stories:

A boy loses his innocence in Pompeii’s flourishing streets.
An heiress dreads her wedding day, not knowing it will be swallowed by fire.
An ex-legionary stakes his entire future on a gladiator bout destined never to be finished.
A crippled senator welcomes death, until a tomboy on horseback comes to his rescue.
A young mother faces an impossible choice for her unborn child as the ash falls.
A priestess and a whore seek resurrection and redemption as the town is buried.

Six authors bring to life overlapping stories of patricians and slaves, warriors and politicians, villains and heroes who cross each others’ path during Pompeii’s fiery end. But who will escape, and who will be buried for eternity?

a day of fire blog tour

Welcome to my stop on the tour for A DAY OF FIRE. A tale of Pompeii’s last hours, this book is written by six different authors: Vicky Alvear Shecter, Sophie Perinot, Ben Kane, Kate Quinn, E. Knight, and Stephanie Dray. The tour is hosted by HF Virtual Book Tours and you can visit all the stops here. After my review, there’s a tour-wide giveaway.

Book Review:

I don’t usually read collections of short stories. I’m a greedy reader, and I’d rather enjoy an entire book’s worth of characters and their stories. But the premise of A DAY OF FIRE drew me in — the last days and hours of Pompeii, seen through the eyes of citizens throughout the social strata. And gods, am I happy I read this book! I couldn’t put it down.

There are six authors and six different main characters in A DAY OF FIRE, but the book flows seamlessly. Rather than think of A DAY OF FIRE as a collection of different short stories, think of it as one, big overarching story that gives you a detailed look at how six different characters and their friends and family survived — or didn’t — the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. Characters show up in each story, so you get to follow almost everyone’s tale to conclusion.

I’m not going to review each story individually, because for me, they all worked together so well that most of the time I thought I was reading the same author’s writing. That was probably one of my favorite aspects of A DAY OF FIRE, because there wasn’t the usual jarring transition between authors and stories that I’ve had before when reading short story collections. At the beginning of the book, the authors do say you could skip a story if you’re not liking it, and yes, you could do that if you wanted.

The authors also include notes on what interpretations they made of the eruption and Pompeian history, which characters are inspired by real figures and which are fictional. I always value those sorts of notes in historical fiction, because I tend to go on Googling and non-fiction sprees after I read a particularly inspiring book, and because I like to know what authors changed, if anything.

There’s a little something here for everyone, thanks to the wide variety of characters. From a war veteran to a girl on the eve of marriage to a senator to a prostitute, you get to see how the eruption affected all levels of society. As I got to know the various characters, the end of A DAY OF FIRE pretty much tore my heart out and stomped on it, which isn’t something that happens very often.

If you like stories of Pompeii, ancient Rome, good historical fiction, characters that will rip at your heart … and a ton of other things, check this book out.

Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*giveaway is tour-wide

About the authors:

author stephanie draySTEPHANIE DRAY is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical women’s fiction and fantasy set in the ancient world. Her critically acclaimed historical Nile series about Cleopatra’s daughter has been translated into more than six different languages, was nominated for a RITA Award and won the Golden Leaf. Her focus on Ptolemaic Egypt and Augustan Age Rome has given her a unique perspective on the consequences of Egypt’s ancient clash with Rome, both in terms of the still-extant tensions between East and West as well as the worldwide decline of female-oriented religion. Before she wrote novels, Stephanie was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Learn more at www.StephanieDray.com.

author ben kaneBEN KANE worked as a veterinarian for sixteen years, but his love of ancient history and historical fiction drew him to write fast-paced novels about Roman soldiers, generals and gladiators. Irish by nationality but UK-based, he is the author of seven books, the last five of which have been Sunday Times top ten bestsellers.Ben’s books have been translated into ten languages. In 2013, Ben walked the length of Hadrian’s Wall with two other authors, for charity; he did so in full Roman military kit, including hobnailed boots. He repeated the madness in 2014, over 130 miles in Italy. Over $50,000 has been raised with these two efforts. Learn more at http://www.benkane.net.

author e. knightE. KNIGHT is an award-winning, indie national best-selling author historical fiction. Under the name, Eliza Knight she writes historical romance and time-travel. Her debut historical fiction novel, MY LADY VIPER, has received critical acclaim and was nominated for the Historical Novel Society 2015 Annual Indie Award. She regularly presents on writing panels and was named Romance Writer’s of America’s 2013 PRO Mentor of the Year. Eliza lives in Maryland atop a small mountain with a knight, three princesses and a very naughty puppy. For more information, visit Eliza at www.elizaknight.com.

author sophie perinotSOPHIE PERINOT is the author of the acclaimed debut, The Sister Queens, which weaves the story of medieval sisters Marguerite and Eleanor of Provence who became queens of France and England respectively. Perinot has both a BA in History and a law degree. A long-time member of the Historical Novel Society, she has attended all of the group’s North American Conferences, serving as a panelist at the most recent. When she is not visiting corners of the past, Sophie lives in Great Falls, VA. Learn more at www.SophiePerinot.com.

author kate quinnKATE QUINN is the national bestselling author of the Empress of Rome novels, which have been variously translated into thirteen different languages. She first got hooked on Roman history while watching “I, Claudius” at the age of seven, and wrote her first book during her freshman year in college, retreating from a Boston winter into ancient Rome. She and her husband now live in Maryland with an imperious black dog named Caesar. Learn more at http://www.katequinnauthor.com.

author vicky alvear shecterVICKY ALVEAR SHECTER is the award-winning author of the young adult novel, Cleopatra’s Moon (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic, 2011), based on the life of Cleopatra’s only daughter. She is also the author of two biographies for kids on Alexander the Great and Cleopatra. The LA Times called Cleopatra’s Moon–set in Rome and Egypt–“magical” and “impressive.” Publisher’s Weekly said it was “fascinating” and “highly memorable.” Her young adult novel of Pompeii, Curses and Smoke (Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic), released in June 2014. She has two other upcoming books for younger readers, Anubis Speaks! and Hades Speaks! Vicky is a docent at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Antiquities at Emory University in Atlanta. Learn more at http://www.vickyalvearshecter.com/main.

Buy links: Amazon US | Amazon UK

– leeanna

Discussion: The Black Sheep Life

black sheep life at leeanna.me

Wow! It’s been months since I’ve done a discussion post, and though I’ve had plenty of ideas, they usually just stay in my head. But recently, there have been some crazy events happening in the book blogosphere. Rather than add my two cents about all those events, I’m going to tie them into a topic I feel strongly about: being a black sheep.

Because I don’t really care for any of the definitions I found online for black sheep, here’s how I’m defining it:

Black Sheep: One who does not enjoy a book that everyone else loves.

So, you might ask why this is relevant to #HaleNo and #BloggerBlackout. I’ve read a lot of articles and discussion posts and tweets in the last few weeks, and I’ve seen a few mentions of how some people think any review below 5 stars shouldn’t be allowed to be posted. That book reviewers should be forced to use their own names because that would cut down on negative reviews. That sites like Goodreads shouldn’t exist because they’re a hotbed of bullying and other bad behavior. That some authors think everyone should love their books.

(Note – I’m pulling together lots of reading, so I can’t find links for everything, and some of that is just my general feeling.)

Yeah. There are problems, I won’t deny that. But I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Imagine for a minute that there’s only one site to find information about BOOK X. And there are only positive, glowing reviews for BOOK X. But when you buy it, you hate it. And then you start to wonder what’s wrong with you because you didn’t like BOOK X.

I bet you would feel like this sad puppy:

sad puppy

I feel like that sad puppy quite a bit, and I have tons of resources out there: Amazon, Goodreads, and most importantly, hundreds and hundreds of book blogs. My reading tastes don’t always match the general populace. Lately there have been quite a few books I’ve been a black sheep with. Although I usually try not to read other reviews when I’m reading a review book, sometimes I can’t help it. I start to think, What’s wrong with me? What am I missing? Why don’t I love this book?

When I don’t like a book, I don’t want to feel like I’m the only person on Earth who didn’t like it. I’ll look for other readers like me, ones who didn’t see the magic. Sometimes it’s really hard to find other black sheeps, but that’s when it’s even more important for me to be honest and not follow the herd. Because I know other black sheeps will come along, readers who want to feel better knowing they’re not the only ones who couldn’t enjoy a book everyone else is raving about.

So why does being a black sheep matter? Because we need to be honest. We need to feel safe to be honest when we don’t like a book. We shouldn’t have to fear an author complaining about a bad review, or going to the extremes of stalking or even physical attacks. I hope #HaleNo and #BloggerBlackout bring about some changes, so that we all feel safe and comfortable expressing our opinion when we’re not part of the “I LOVE this book” readership.

What do you think? Have you ever been a black sheep? How do you feel about posting negative reviews for books that everyone else loves?

– leeanna

*sheep clipart from http://sweetclipart.com/.

Waiting on Wednesday: The Price of Blood by Patricia Bracewell

waiting on wednesday

the price of blood by patricia bracewellThe Price of Blood, Emma of Normandy Trilogy #2 by Patricia Bracewell
Release Date: February 5, 2015

Menaced by Vikings and enemies at court, Queen Emma defends her children and her crown in a riveting medieval adventure

Readers first met Emma of Normandy in Patricia Bracewell’s gripping debut novel, Shadow on the Crown. Unwillingly thrust into marriage to England’s King Æthelred, Emma has given the king a son and heir, but theirs has never been a happy marriage. In The Price of Blood, Bracewell returns to 1006 when a beleaguered Æthelred, still haunted by his brother’s ghost, governs with an iron fist and a royal policy that embraces murder.

As tensions escalate and enmities solidify, Emma forges alliances to protect her young son from ambitious men—even from the man she loves. In the north there is treachery brewing, and when Viking armies ravage England, loyalties are shattered and no one is safe from the sword.
Rich with intrigue, compelling personalities, and fascinating detail about a little-known period in history, The Price of Blood will captivate fans of both historical fiction and fantasy novels such as George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series.

SHADOW ON THE CROWN, the first book in Patricia Bracewell’s trilogy about Emma of Normandy, was one of my favorite books of 2013. I was sooooo excited when I saw the cover and summary for book two, THE PRICE OF BLOOD. This is historical fiction just the way I like it: realistic and dark, with an incredibly strong woman at the forefront. February cannot come quickly enough: I need this book now! I scavenged the Internet for everything I could find about Emma after I finished SHADOW ON THE CROWN, but I’d much rather read the continuation of her story from Patricia than watch another documentary :D

Socialize with the author:
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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine.

– leeanna

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan

Book Review: Shadowboxer by Tricia SullivanShadowboxer by Tricia Sullivan
Published by Ravenstone on October 9, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 288
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
3 Stars
Thai martial arts, international crime, celebrity and mythical creatures combine in this masterful new tale of two people facing incredible dangers, from award-winning author Tricia Sullivan.

Nothing she’s faced in the cage will prepare her...

Jade is a young mixed martial arts fighter. When she’s in the cage she dominates her opponents—but in real life she’s out of control.

After she has a confrontation with a Hollywood martial arts star that threatens her gym’s reputation, Jade’s coach sends her to a training camp in Thailand for an attitude adjustment. Hoping to discover herself, she instead uncovers a shocking conspiracy. In a world just beyond our own, a man is stealing the souls of children to try and live forever.

Book Review:

The first chapter of SHADOWBOXER hooked my interest because I tend to like cocky, tough protagonists, and Jade is exactly that. A talented martial arts fighter, Jade has a tendency to get into fights when she shouldn’t, such as when she defends the gym’s cat from a movie star. Jade’s coach sends her to Thailand to get her out of the star’s sights, as well as to see how well she can fight as a pro.

The parts of SHADOWBOXER set in Thailand were some of my favorites. I can’t recall reading a YA book set there before, and I liked that the author included some Thai phrases/ways of thinking, such as “mai pen rai” and “jai yen.” I actually felt like I was in Thailand, watching Jade train and fight. I know absolutely nothing about MMA and Muay Thai fighting, but the author described the fights very well, so I could easily “see” them.

But Jade’s story is not the only one in SHADOWBOXER. The first time Mya showed up, I had no clue what the heck was going on. Why did the book switch from Jade’s first person point of view to Mya’s third person? And who was this ten year old girl?

Mya has a very special ability: she can travel into the immortal forest. It’s an ability her guardian uses for evil, and when Mya learns he has nefarious plans for her, she flees there. Eventually, Mya and Jade do connect, but not for a while, and I ultimately felt like there were two separate stories inside of SHADOWBOXER. I did like the elements of Thai mythology Mya’s journeys into the Himmapan showcased, but the supernatural elements didn’t 100% mesh for me with Jade’s problems, and vice versa.

Socialize with the author:

Tricia Sullivan:
Website
Twitter

– leeanna

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 327
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Book Review:

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD isn’t my typical sort of book, but I had read a couple of reviews praising it, and I had also checked out the first few letters and thought I might enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the book, and usually I have to finish books. I made it to page 74 before I said no more.

Here’s why I couldn’t get into the book:

–The idea of the “love letters.” I didn’t really see any point for Laurel to be writing love letters to famous dead people. Yes, it’s a neat idea at first, and probably what attracted a lot of people, myself included, to the book. But 99% of the letters are identical. Laurel starts off with “Dear _____,” then launches into a boring monologue about her day, complete with dialogue and misplaced purple prose descriptions. Most of the time, I forgot I was reading a letter. The epistolary format just didn’t work for me, especially when Laurel educated the dead person about their own life. She actually told Judy Garland and Janis Joplin what their childhoods were like. And the subjects of the letters? I can’t see a lot of teens knowing who many of these people are, such as Mister Ed or River Phoenix.

–Laurel had no personality for me. I didn’t care about her at all, and I couldn’t connect with her. In LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD, she’s just starting high school, but at times, I could have sworn she was 10 because of her innocence and naivety. Laurel is mourning her dead sister, May, but instead of showing us how broken up she is, the author just tells us. I am aware that people mourn in different ways, but I never felt any grief from Laurel.

–Within the 74 pages I read, Laurel smokes, drinks, flashes people, sneaks out, and watches her friends steal alcohol. I’m no prude, and I like when teens exhibit realistic behavior in young adult books, but I thought this was a bit much.

–I had no idea where LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD was going. Usually I get a good sense of where a book is headed, but here, I had no idea, and I like to know the plot’s general direction. I acknowledge that I didn’t finish the book and maybe a better story showed up later, but I shouldn’t have to wait until the middle or end for something to happen. A book needs to keep my interest, and LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD did not.

–The writing. I cannot imagine a freshman writing something like this: “I liked everything about it. I liked waiting in line with everyone. I liked that the girl in front of me had red curls on the back of her head that you could tell she curled herself. And I liked the thin crinkle of the plastic when I opened the wrapper. I liked how every bite made a falling-apart kind of crunch (p. 8).” That quote is about buying a Nutter Butter. A NUTTER BUTTER, people.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a book that just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like it, and I tried to read it, but I could not get into it.

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Ava Dellaira:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie Lu

Book Review: The Young Elites by Marie LuThe Young Elites by Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #1
Published by Putnam Juvenile on October 7, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read
Goodreads
2 Stars
I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt.

Book Review:

Villains are usually my favorite characters in books. Call me twisted, but I love bad women/guys, characters who do anything to get their way, characters who have questionable morals and/or goals. So I should have loved THE YOUNG ELITES, because it’s supposed to be a villain’s story.

Adelina is tired of being hurt, of being used. A survivor of the mysterious blood fever, she lost an eye. One would think that would be enough, but her father has hurt and hated her for years, trying to find some value in having a malfetto for a daughter. When Adelina finds out her father is going to sell her, she escapes … and murders him in the process.

On the day of her execution, a fire already set at her feet, Adelina is rescued by the Young Elites. They are a group of malfettos with magic powers, and they want Adelina because she’s one of them. But the rescue isn’t quite what it seems, because the Young Elites want to use Adelina, as does Teren, leader of the Inquisition that nearly killed her.

All of that? Pretty promising, I’d say. But there was just something missing in THE YOUNG ELITES, something that’s very difficult for me to put my finger on. I should have flown through this book, but it took me days to finish. That’s abnormal for me, because I usually read a book a day. THE YOUNG ELITES just didn’t hold my interest. I feel like I trudged through it, and there were several points where I just wanted to put it aside. I didn’t, but only because I’d heard the ending was worth it. The ending was okay, the best part of the book for me, other than the epilogue.

Why didn’t THE YOUNG ELITES hold my interest? To start, there’s a real lack of worldbuilding for a fantasy book. The world feels a lot like Renaissance Italy, and there are lots of descriptions of buildings and pretty masks and clothing, but not of the important stuff. Where did the blood fever come from? How does magic work for the Young Elites? Adelina describes using her powers, but I didn’t quite get the idea behind the threads, or many of the powers of the other Elites. Etc.

I also never connected to Adelina. I don’t necessarily have to like a main character to like a book, but there has to be something about a character to grab me if the story doesn’t. I should have loved that Adelina is making steps towards being the bad guy, but she didn’t feel very developed to me. I read in the Acknowledgments that she was originally a side character, and then the author rewrote the book around her.

There’s more bad I could go on about, but I’ll stop there and just say I was underwhelmed and disappointed by this book. I expected more — I really liked Marie Lu’s first book, LEGEND, which read almost like playing a video game. If I made the same comparison, THE YOUNG ELITES read like being stuck on the loading screen.

So why 2 stars instead of 1? Because there is some cool stuff in THE YOUNG ELITES. Parts of the book are quite dark, which I usually like, and I liked that the author tried to go there. I could see promise, but there was a lack of execution/focus. I probably would pick up the next Young Elites book, but I’m crossing my fingers that it’s better.

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Marie Lu:
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– leeanna